On Saturday, May 3, embrace the American tradition that is the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby and serve up the official drink, the mint julep. Of all the Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby seems to have the most engrained sense of tradition. From the Twin Spires atop Churchill Downs’ original grandstand, to the University of Louisville’s marching band pumping “My Old Kentucky Home,” to the winner’s impressive garland of roses, everything about the Derby is a steeped brew thick with history. And the mint julep is no different.
Each of the Triple Crown races boasts its own official cocktail, but the mint julep is the only one with staying power. First introduced as the official tipple in 1938, things have remained pretty much the same since, with Early Times Kentucky Whisky signing on as the official whiskey of the event for the past 18 years. All told, about 120,000 mint juleps are served per year at the race, using more than 10,000 bottles of Early Times, 1,000 pounds of fresh mint and 60,000 pounds of crushed ice.
Come race time, if you’re not partying up in Louisville, raise a julep at home with the official recipe.
- 2 oz. Early Times Kentucky Whisky
- 1 Tbsp. mint simple syrup (recipe below)
- Mint sprigs
- Crushed ice
Crush a few mint leaves in the bottom of a julep chalice (or 8-oz. glass), then fill with crushed ice. Add one tablespoon of mint simple syrup and one tablespoon water, followed by 2 oz. of Early Times. Stir until glass frosts. Garnish with a mint sprig and enjoy.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 13 sprigs of mint
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes; do not stir. Pour over the 13 sprigs of mint in a heatproof bowl, gently crushing the mint with the back of a spoon. Chill, covered, for 8 to 10 hours. Strain, discarding the mint.
*Recipe courtesy of Early Times.